A British Colonel, Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) requests a drone strike to take out a group of terrorists in Nairobi, Kenya who are planning a series of suicide bombings. However, the situation grows more complicated when an American drone pilot, Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) discovers that a nine-year-old girl has entered the targeted area, forcing a number of military leaders and politicians to debate the best course of action.
The film should get a lot of attention as it is one of Alan Rickman’s final roles. Here he played Lt. General Frank Benson, Mirren’s Colonel Powell’s commanding officer. It was definitely weird to see him on screen but despite that, it was still nice to see him albeit for one last time (he voices a character in the upcoming film “Alice Through the Looking Glass”).
For those who don’t know the story, British Colonel Katherine Powell (Mirren) is requesting a drone strike in order to eliminate a group of terrorists in Nairobi, Kenya who are planning a series of suicide bombings. Things soon get complicated when an American drone pilot named Steve Watts (Paul) finds a 9-year old girl in the target area. This forces countless military leaders and politicians to debate the best course of action.
This film could not have come at a better time with drone strikes in the news on a weekly basis (I know of the similar film, “Good Kill”, which came out in 2014 but I didn’t see it) and seen the ethics involved constantly debated. This was exactly the case here as the decision of whether or not to strike was not taken lightly here. The decision was definitely not a simple one as the film explores this in a very elaborate and complex way considering the ethical, political, and legal ramifications of such an action.
The film offered us many viewpoints of the issue, often going back in forth between several of the parties involved including Powell and her group, Benson and his group, and also British Foreign Secretary James Willett (Iain Glen) and his group. They did not take it lightly as they debated the issue amongst themselves. Without giving anything away, each of the parties involved had a stake in the outcome and this was very evident. Some of the political elements were played off for comedic effect which somewhat worked for me as they were used to try and ease the tension but weren’t overly necessary. All of the deliberation was fun and interesting to watch but I found it slowed the plot a little too much for me. It did get better as the film went on but it was still a little slow for me.
The thing I liked the most about this film was its intensity. This was played in out in many facets. Those moments when we were watching what was happening via the drone camera were intense and exciting as it was unclear as to what was going to happen. By that I mean we didn’t know what was going to happen if they didn’t strike or what was going to happen if they did strike. I found this uncertainty very compelling. The soundtrack was unrelenting and added to the suspense of the plot. But what really tied all of these together were the performances, especially from Mirren and Rickman.
Mirren was great here as a determined colonel, trying to organize everything and everyone while trying to control everything she could control in order to maximize success and minimize failure. I found that Rickman, through his presence, elevate his role here through his mastering of all the little things, through looks, glances, and facial expressions. Although they never technically appear together in a scene, I thought their rapport was fun to watch, seeing them play off of each other. Paul was also good here expressing the plight involved in this situation but this was Mirren and Rickman’s film
I understand that this was done just to increase the tension but I’m sure this would not have happened the way it did here in real life but I didn’t mind.
Overall, this film did start off slow but was unrelenting in its tension and was still fun to watch throughout thanks to great performances from Mirren and Rickman.